I wasn’t feeling so great last week so PC sent me to the hospital to figure out what the problem was. I took my number and prepared myself for another unnecessarily long wait at a Panamanian anything. To my surprise my number was called relatively quickly. My information (name, age, location) was gathered and a folder created with my name. I was told to move over to a different section of the hospital and listen for my number. “Aha!”, I thought to myself, “now the real waiting begins.” Again, after only a few minutes my number was called. This time it was for my vitals (height, weight, blood pressure, heart rate). I was told to move over to a different section of the hospital and listen for my name this time. Here it was, I was finally in front of the doctor’s door, now the serious waiting begins. Before I could even get settled into my Panamanian waiting slouch the doctor had called my name. Is this really happening? Have I entered some mysterious alternate universe where Panama has figured out efficiency and human management? Are my symptoms so strong that I’ve become delusional enough to think this is happening quickly? Where can I get the “I (pizza slice) pizza” t-shirt that lady has on? These are all things that passed through my mind as the doctor was calling my name.
After getting the standard pleasantries out of the way, like the monthly salary of my doctor ($1205 in case you were wondering) and if $15 was too much for the jeans my doctor was wearing (Texas-American brand jeans in case you were wondering) he poked, prodded, and preguntared his way to the diagnosis of an infection in my throat, or possibly malaria. The blood test would tell us everything. I went next door and immediately had my blood drawn. I was told it would be “up to an hour” for the results. Yes, finally! Here it is, the ol’ “come back in an hour trick”. For those unfamiliar with Panama, come back in an hour really means 5 hours from now. No stranger to waiting for things in Panama I had brought a book and began the “process” that is waiting for things to happen. Having just gotten properly settled in, my concentration was broken by a helicopter landing near the hospital and an entourage of white people getting out. It turns out that this day was the day for the Ambassador of the US was to tour this particular hospital. When he finally came up to me I introduced myself and we exchanged “normal” pleasantries. He then joking asked if I was in for malaria which I did not laugh at. The “white flood” as my host dad described them had left just as quickly as they came. By the time they were gone, less than 45 minutes, my blood test results were finished. Just as the doctor had suspected, an infection in my thyroid, nothing more. I was ordered to go to the pharmacy to pick up my meds. They gave me my prescriptions and said I was free to leave. I slowly made my way to the exit, not sure who I should pay for the examination and the meds. I must have looked confused or lost to the doctor because he personally escorted me to the exit door, thanked me for my time, and sent me on my way. To this day I’m still not sure what the hell happened in that hospital. I was checked in, examined, had blood drawn and tested, and given prescriptions in a little over two hours.
Later that day I was describing the miracle that happened at the hospital with some other community members as we waited at the port for three hours for the guy that “would be there in a half an hour”. And all was right in Panama again.